Growing up in the South, I heard people talk about Nashville plenty of times. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends to make the 2+ hour drive to attend concerts or take a weekend trip, but as someone who had never been (and no interest in going), I always downplayed the hype. After all, what could be so great about Music City, especially to a girl who doesn’t even like country music?!
But when my family decided to move our annual camping trip from western Kentucky to Nashville, I was instantly thrown into planning mode, and quickly learned there is so much more to Nashville than I ever thought. Even though I’m dying to go back and visit more of the places on my list, we were able to do and see so much while there for just a few short days. So whether you’re currently planning a trip or dreaming of one in the future, I’ve putting together a guide on how you can plan the perfect trip to Nashville, complete with where you should stay, as well as what you should see, eat, and do.
1) Where to Stay
The great part about visiting a big city like Nashville is that there are accommodations for every budget. From camping to Airbnbs to hotels and resorts, you have plenty of options to choose from!
For the Budget-Friendly: Jellystone Campground
During my trip, we decided to continue our family tradition of staying at a Jellystone Campground, and luckily there was one just a short drive from the city. Although it doesn’t sound as glamorous as staying in a luxury hotel suite in the middle of the city, I highly recommend it because of how budget-friendly it is, as well as how fun it can be for all ages. Plus, if you’re interested in having some distance from the city, staying at a campground is perfect for that.
The Jellystone Campground in Nashville offers tent camping, RV parking, and a variety of cabins, each with differing levels of amenities. We stayed in one of their air-conditioned “rustic cabins”, which was in the lowest tier for cabin amenities, but also the most budget-friendly of the cabins. Even though it was a bit low on space (especially when we had the futons pulled out into beds), we were extremely happy with it. Plus, if you’re already planning on spending more time in the city than at the campground, it is well worth giving up some amenities to save money.
Although rates can vary throughout the year, our cabin was less than $90 a night, which was amazing considering that it was not only in the middle of the summer (when rates are usually higher), but our stay was also the same weekend of a major concert in Nashville. Plus, we were just a 10 minute drive from the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland Resort, and the Opry Mills Shopping Center, and only a 20-30 minute drive from the Nashville Zoo, The Pancake Pantry, and the “What Lifts You” mural, so I’d say we got a pretty good deal!
But if you plan on splurging: Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
If you’re looking for more of a resort-like experience, I highly recommend staying at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The resort is basically made up of giant, inter-connecting atriums, with a giant glass ceiling that covers the courtyard-like areas that contain the shopping, dining, gardens, fountains, and more. The perimeter of the atrium is made up of some of the rooms of the resort.
Along with gardens, shopping, concert stages, and dining, they even have a river boat ride inside the resort! (I mean, how crazy is that?!?!) I could have spent the entire trip just trying to explore the entire place.
However, even if you’re not staying there, I highly recommend visiting just to explore. Just keep in mind that it is a HUGE resort, and if you’re not careful you may become lost…like I did. I have no idea how the staff can find their way around without getting lost.
Just a quick tip: if you’re just planning on visiting, know that parking at Opryland Resort is extremely expensive. To save yourself the money, I recommend parking at the edge of the Opry Mills Shopping Center’s parking lot (which is next to the resort) and walking over, which only takes an extra 5 minutes.
2) Where to Eat
The Pancake Pantry
When I began researching where to visit in Nashville, the first thing I did was text my friends (all of whom had been at least once) and ask for their recommendations. Each of them highly recommended The Pancake Pantry, and after eating there myself, I fully agree with them. The Pancake Pantry truly is a place you need to eat at when visiting Nashville!
When visiting the Pancake Pantry, I suggest arriving early. We arrived at 9am and there was already limited parking in the lot behind the building, as well as a line (of about 20 people in front of us) going out the door. Amazingly, however, we still got in and were seated within 15 minutes.
A quick tip that we didn’t learn until after we had paid for parking is that you can get the first 1 1/2 hours for free if you press option 1 on the parking lot’s payment screen as long as you’re dining there. We didn’t know this and selected option 2, which we had to pay for and gave us much more parking time than we needed.
Once we were seated, we were given the menu and I decided to be adventurous and branch out from what I usually get for breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes), and opted for the Chocolate Sin, a crepe-style pancake that is covered with ganache. To be honest, I didn’t even know what a crepe was (or how to pronounce it) before I got it, but it was 100% worth it. I’m not a breakfast person to begin with, but these were absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend them. (Just be ready for how rich they are!)
If you’re wanting to check out what else the Pancake Pantry offers, their entire menu is available to view online! Just click here.
As we were leaving, the line had grown much longer, and was actually wrapped around the side of the building. If you ever want to see how long the line is at a certain time of the day/week, they actually have a “Pancake Cam” on their website that you can use to view the line, which is definitely helpful for planning your trip and checking to see how long the line is on your way there.
Five Daughters Bakery
Another breakfast place we tried out was Five Daughters Bakery, which is hands-down the cutest (and perhaps the most Instagrammable) bakery I’ve ever seen. What’s really amazing, though, is the amount of care and love that goes into everything that they make. Not only do they use organic and local ingredients as much as possible, but they’re also dedicated to no artificial flavors, no hydrogenated oils, and so many other food-values that it makes me happy that there’s a business out there putting so much dedication into this. Plus, they offer plenty of vegan options!
I tried their chocolate sea salt doughnut (which you can see on the left in the photo below), as well as the 100-layer birthday cake doughnut (shown on the right). All I can say is that they are absolutely AMAZING, but also much bigger than I expected. (But that’s nothing to complain about. 😉 )
Additionally, they also offer live doughnut cams so you can see the doughnuts being offered that day!
For more information on Five Daughters Bakery, just click here.
3) What to See
Visiting Nashville isn’t just about the food (or is it? 🤔) and we had plenty that we wanted to see during our trip…so much that we couldn’t even finish it all in the 4 days that we were there!
So what were some of the highlights of my trip that I think are definitely worth visiting? Well…
1. Opry Mills Shopping Center
Since we arrived in Nashville several hours before check-in and it we wanted to stop for some lunch, our first stop was the Opry Mills Shopping Center. Now you may be thinking “Oh, it’s just a mall. Why would I travel all the way to Nashville just to go to a mall?”, but it’s much more than “just” a mall. Not only does it offer plenty of shopping and a movie theater, but it also has a variety of restaurants including Johnny Rockets (which I tried for the first time while I was there!), a Rainforest Cafe, and an Aquarium Restaurant. Madame Tussauds is also located in the mall, which I didn’t get to visit, but I’ve heard is pretty amazing.
2. Grand Ole Opry
Sitting right next to the Opry Mills Shopping Center is the Grand Ole Opry, and it’s so close that you can actually walk from one to the other! And although I don’t care much for country music, I do recommend visiting it. They offer tours and shows, but you can also opt to just wander around and browse through the shops.
3) Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
Okay, so I know I’ve already mentioned this place once before, but I felt like it needs to be reiterated, as it is much more than “just a resort”. Packed full of restaurants, shopping, events, and so much more, I honestly don’t know why this place wasn’t mentioned in any of Nashville blog posts I read leading up to the trip.
4) Nashville Zoo
I’ve only ever been to 2 zoos in my life (excluding smaller animal parks and farms), so when it came to visiting the Nashville Zoo, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But with it being a major city, I was sure that it would be good…and I wasn’t let down!
One of my favorite parts about the zoo was how much detail and design work there was, and each animal’s environment was extremely well-designed and taken care of. Even guinea pigs, not an animal you would normally expect to see at a zoo, had their own island-like exhibit, complete with a “river”, a bridge, and tons of little “homes” for them to hide out in.
However, one thing to note about zoo is that it’s hard to navigate. There are some areas where you’ll walk for 5-10 minutes just to hit a dead end and have to backtrack, and it wasn’t until we left that we realized we missed an entire section! If you decide to visit, just keep your map on hand so that you can track where you’re going.
5. The Parthenon
When I learned we would be diverting our annual trip to Nashville, I knew hands-down that I wanted to visit the Parthenon. After all, who wouldn’t want to visit a replica of the famous Greek temple?
What makes Nashville’s Parthenon so unique is that it is a full-scale replica of the one in Greece before it became a set of ruins, which helps give you an idea of how the Parthenon originally looked back when it was first built. Plus, it is an AMAZING location to do photos at (which I will be featuring in my upcoming Instagram Guide to Nashville!) and admission is super cheap…only $6! Although we spent less than an hour here, it was still cool to go inside and see the art gallery, the collection of artifacts, and the statue of Athena.
Plus, if you were a fan of the Percy Jackson series, you may remember that the Parthenon is actually one of the locations where the movie takes place! Because of that, there are a few props from the movie on display here. When I visited, they had a copy of the script, the pearl that they collected from Athena’s necklace, and one of the darts that Annabeth used to knock-out the janitors.
6. “WhatLiftsYou” Wings
If you’ve ever had a friend who’s visited Nashville, you’ve no doubt seen a picture of the WhatLiftsYou wings. In fact, they’re so famous that they have their own location on Google Maps, so all you have to do is type their name into GPS and go!
(And don’t forget to check out the artist on Instagram! Her artwork is absolutely amazing, and she’s done murals like this all over the world. Just click here to check out her profile.)
7. Other Nashville Murals
I didn’t realizing just how amazing murals truly are, especially for photos, until after I became a blogger. That’s why I was so excited when I learned that Nashville was home to DOZENS of them…too many to count!
I got to hop around town to several of these murals, and let me to you that they are well worth it! From an avocado mural(?!) to some of the cutest abstract walls on the planet, I’m making it my mission to go back and find more of them the next time I’m in Nashville.
One of my favorite murals was this one that was just across the street from the “What Lifts You Wings”. It’s also next to a parking lot you can get 1 1/2 hours of free parking at (just remember to choose option 1 at the parking station!), which is the perfect place to leave your car when going to the murals in this area.
Although I wasn’t expecting it, Nashville has become one of my favorite places I’ve traveled, and there’s still so much more to see and do! From the different places to stay to the different sights to see, each trip is bound to be unique, so hopefully this guide has given you some ideas on where to visit during your trip!